With this 1975 issue of Detective Comics, DC changed the cover-billing to Batman's Detective Comics, though the book's actual title didn't change. One presumes this was an attempt to draw casual Batman fans to the book, fans who may have been passing by the less-familiar Detective Comics logo when flipping quickly and haphazardly through spinner racks and display shelves. I guess. Previous issues had shown Batman's picture at or near the top of the cover already--you'd have to go back to 1968's Detective Comics # 380 to find the last 'Tec that didn't do that--so it's not like The Dark Knight's starring role in Detective was obscured up to then.
But Detective Comics didn't sell as well as Batman, which itself didn't sell as well as it used to. No comics sold as well as they used to. DC was desperate to try anything to compete; Marvel outsold DC mercilessly, and comics sales in general were trending in a dangerous direction. Looking ahead to 1978, Detective Comics--DC's second-oldest title (after Adventure Comics), published continuously since 1937, and starring The Batman since that character's 1939 debut in Detective Comics # 27--would face cancellation in a company purge of poor-selling books. A comic book called The Batman Family, starring Robin, Batgirl, and other associated Bat-characters, was doing well enough to survive the cut; wiser heads proposed merging The Batman Family with Detective Comics, saving 'Tec from oblivion.
A shell game. But a shell game with purpose.
Today's imaginary expansion of Detective Comics # 454 adds another in our series of reprints of artist Alex Toth's stunning work on the 1970 Hot Wheels comic book. Hey, speaking of stunning artwork! We also have a 1970 tour de force courtesy of the great Nick Cardy, illustrating The Caped Crusader's one and only team-up with The Bat-Squad. The Bat-Squad was a one-off oddity from writer Bob Haney, consisting of an unlikely British trio--guitarist Mick Murdock, script girl and aspiring actress Margo Cantrell, and former Scotland Yard inspector Major Dabney--who help Batman stop a strangler during a London film shoot. Even just on paper, one can hear how awful and phony The Bat-Squad's British accents are, a "Blimey! Jove! Bloomin'! Smashin'!" Cockney concoction that would make Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins sound like Sir Laurence Olivier. Nonsense, but entertaining nonsense, and Cardy's depiction of it is gorgeous. Golden Age Phantom Lady and Blue Beetle stories complete our faux line-up.
The Batman in "The Set-Up Caper," Detective Comics # 454 (December 1975)
Hot Wheels in "The Case Of The Curious Classic," Hot Wheels # 5 (November-December 1970)
The Phantom Lady in "The Stinging Whip!," Phantom Lady # 17 (April 1948)
The Batman and The Bat-Squad in "Night Wears A Scarlet Shroud!," The Brave And The Bold # 92 (October-November 1970)
The Golden Age "Blue Beetle And The Mummy Who Never Died!," Phantom Lady # 13 (August 1947)
Robin the Teen Wonder in "Break-Out!," Detective Comics # 403 (September 1970)
Hawkman in "The Catch-Me-If-You-Can Crook," Detective Comics # 454 (December 1975)
Hot Wheels is copyright Mattel Inc., all other characters copyright DC Comics Inc. The Blue Beetle and Phantom Lady stories are public domain, while the rest can only be suggested here in sample pages; my subscribers get to see the whole thing. More 100-Page FAKES! on the way, with a return to Aquaman's Adventure Comics--hey, how come DC never tried that?--coming up next.